The annual Hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, is among the largest mass gatherings in the world draws about 2 to 4 million Muslim pilgrims every year; at least 1.5 to 2 million pilgrims are foreign visitors.
In 2017, Hajj will take place from approximately August 30 to September 4.
Every year, at the request of the Government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), the World Health Organization (WHO) publishes travel advice based on Saudi Arabia’s travel advisory that informs visitors of the requirements for entry into Saudi Arabia for Hajj. However, these stipulated requirements and conditions do not imply an endorsement by WHO.
Because of the crowds, mass gatherings such as Hajj are associated with unique health risks and increases the risk of infectious diseases of pandemic potential.
Cases of Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) continue to occur in the Arabian Peninsula. People with diabetes, kidney failure, chronic lung disease, or weakened immune systems may be at high risk for severe disease from MERS.
The Saudi Ministry of Health recommends that the following people postpone travel for Hajj:
- People older than age 65 years
- Children younger than age 12 years
- Pregnant women
- People with chronic diseases (such as heart disease, kidney disease, diabetes, or respiratory disease)
- People with weakened immune systems
- People with cancer or terminal illness
The current highly spreading outbreak of cholera in Yemen, as well as in some African countries, may represent a serious risk to all pilgrims during the Hajj days and even after returning to their countries.
All travelers coming from current/ previous polio-endemic countries and from states vulnerable to polio for different reasons (decided by KSA Ministry of Health) will be given another dose of oral polio vaccine (OPV) upon arrival, irrespective of age.
It is recommended that all pilgrims, for both Hajj and Umrah, take insect bite avoidance measures during daytime and night time hours to reduce the risk of infection from any arboviral diseases, specifically Zika virus infection.
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